Stating that the “country is being polarised due to religious affiliations”, the top Catholic body in the country has said the community is “losing confidence” in the government. “From the point of Christian community, this whole incident of attack on priests and seminaries in Satna and the state government’s move to file cases against the priests, arresting the poor and the innocent instead of finding the culprits, do not help us to keep our confidence in the government intact. We are losing our confidence in the government,” Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the apex decision making body of the Catholic Church in the country, told The Indian Express in an interview.
“I agree such incidents can happen in a big country… But how do you evaluate the strength and stand of the government? It is the subsequent action and the legal protection are what matter.”
“The country is being divided on the basis of religious belief. It is bad in a democratic country. I want my country to be united in a secular fabric. But now, this country is being polarised due to religious affiliations. We should fight against it,” the Cardinal said.
Last week, 30 priests and seminarians singing carols in a village near Satna in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh were detained by police after Bajrang Dal activists accused them of trying to forcibly convert the villagers. One of the priests was arrested under the state’s draconian anti-conversion law.
Cleemis led a delegation of the CBCI, which met Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday to express their “pain and anguish and seek justice”. Union Minister Alphons Kannanthanam and Rajya Sabha Vice-Chairman P J Kurien were present at the meeting. Cleemis said Singh’s “spontaneous response” was positive and he assured immediate action. “He said he will see to it that justice is done. I hope he will do his best.”
He said neither he nor the community in Satna could understand the reason behind the attack. “There is no evidence or visible reason … It was a pre-planned attack. The conversion allegation in Satna is baseless. The diocese does not get into conversion at all.”
He also rejected the argument that reports of attacks on churches come up only during elections. “That argument is absurd and baseless. Now what’s the connection between election and the attack in Satna? There are reports that in Rajasthan too, Christian groups were attacked. There is no election now,” the Cardinal said.
He wanted the government to “decide serious measures to safeguard the interest of citizens. “Make sure that innocent people are treated properly and given protection . The culprits should be punished for their bad acts and for damaging the image of the country. We should stay together, united in diversity,” he said, adding that the Christian community and its leadership are “committed to work towards the growth of the country beyond ethnic, religious and linguistic affiliations.”